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Turks & Caicos Aggressor II Captain’s Log
July 06 – July 13 2019
Turks & Caicos Islands
Air temperature: 80° - 84° F
Water temperature: 82°F - 83°F
Visibility: 60 - 100 feet
Thermal recommendation: 3mm full wetsuit
Captain: Alex Brett
Engineer: Robert Smith
Chef: Sarah Pearson
Instructor: James Whittle
Instructor: Alizee Zimmermann
Stew: Reginald Beckford
Ken & Pat, Sandra & Dan, Mary & Patrick, Rob, Steven & Spencer, Jan & Andrew, Scott & Colleen, Katie, Maggie.
Our Dive Sites
Sunday: Eel Garden & Amphitheatre - NWPT
Monday: Boat Cove & Magic Mushroom – West Caicos
Tuesday: Driveway, Spanish Anchor - West Caicos
Wednesday: Gullies & Brandy Wine – West Caicos
Thursday: Elephant Ear Canyon - West Caicos, The Dome - NWPT
Friday: Sharks Hotel- NWPT
Stepping aboard the vessel at Turtle Cove Marina on early Saturday afternoon the guests eagerly set up their gear in anticipation for the week ahead. Leaving the marina early we anchored just outside the marina entrance awaiting the arrival of the last few guests flying in on the later flights. Collecting the remaining guests via the tender was a unique experience that few guests get to experience. After the safety briefing the salon was cleared and transformed into the dining room for the guests to enjoy the 3 course meal prepared by our chef. Later than night we made our way to the North West Point of Providenciales to be prepared for the first dives to begin in the morning.
Kicking the week off on Eel Garden and enjoying the dog legged walls that peel off towards the North and South. Finding a turtle shortly into the dive was of great excitement to the guests as it allowed for many great pictures and gave them a taste of what the week can have in store for them. Watching the reef sharks glide along the wall in their circuit that they have was enjoyable as you could count on them coming back to give us a visit later on in the dive. The first dive of the week is always filled with more wonder and excitement as it is the stepping stone to see what else they will see in the week. The guests get a very good idea in what they will be able to see and what the diving conditions will be like throughout the week. Swimming slightly more to the shallows near the mooring pin the guests were shown the coral nursery trees that were in place growing Staghorn and Elkhorn corals to be transplanted on to some reef balls closer to shore to help promote reef growth. Our instructor Alizee, who helps maintain and document the coral growth when not on the boat, gave the guests more information about how the trees are to be used and how they maintain them.
After a delicious lunch and a short move to the next dive site we rang the bell to commence with the fiddling of the gear to prepare for the next dive. We had arrived at Amphitheatre to enjoy the 2 remaining afternoon dives as well as the night dive to ensure familiarity with the dive site. Amphitheatre is an interesting site as it offers a few different aspects to see, the site itself has three main parts to it. The Amphitheatre along the wall which looks like an ice cream scoop has scraped at the wall and then was plopped down in front of the wall to create a seating and stage area like feature which is home to many different types of life. From lobsters under the plate corals to decorator crabs in the black corals and sea plumes, sleeping nurse sharks on the ledges surrounding the Amphitheatre with reef sharks, jacks and snappers swimming through the cut out with the divers. The northern side of the wall is a juveniles paradise offering many places to hide and take cover amongst the scrubs corals, reef mounds and small rocky sand ridges creating small caves and overhangs. These are great for moray eels, squat lobsters, sun anemone shrimp and plenty of cleaning stations with Pederson cleaner shrimp. The south side is more rocky coral ridges that form small hills and valleys which schooling fish swim around and provide crabs and lobsters with hiding holes.
Waking up to a gentle sunrise and a cool breeze in the air along West Caicos having moved the night before after the night dive at Amphitheatre. The guests ate a hot breakfast and woke up with some freshly brewed coffee before getting ready to dive along a new island and a whole new set of reefs and stretch of wall. The day began at Boat Cove offering 2 dives here with an easy to navigate wall due to the sand shoot that was due west of the mooring pin and where the boat was hanging. Underneath the boat were interspersed coral rock heads boasting different types of life. In a small pile of rubble gathered by a sand tile fish we found a juvenile grey angel poorly hiding its bright black and yellow stripes in the dull beige white sand behind it. Directly under the boat was a large coral head that acts as a nursery and cleaning station due to the 3 corkscrew anemone’s with about 5 Pederson cleaner shrimp at each anemone. Sharks traversing the walls had almost become a common sight with the guests but there was still excitement in seeing them and wondering how close they may come to you without veering away to continue on their patrol of the reef. Teaming with oceanic trigger fish around the larger coral heads being cleaned by cleaner wrasse and blennies along the top of the wall and on the plateaus below the wall playing with the sand, too deep for us to get a closer look into what was actually going on.
Lunch came by quickly and we finished that up even faster while building our surface interval and changing dive sites to Magic Mushroom just a bit further south along West Caicos. Its gets its name from the Mushroom shaped rock just off the iron shore that disappears at high tide and then at low tide it looks like a mushroom, Magic! With a more sloping wall than the other sites it allows the divers to explore the wall more than normal and move along the wall as if it were a large reef mount as opposed to a wall. Near the small sand shoot west of the mooring you can find 2 large barrel sponges, one standing up as if a large barrel of liquor and then the second seems as if it has fallen over and has formed a large laughing mouth shaped opening facing the wall. This is used as a helpful sign post to let you know you are nearing the boat and to start heading towards the shallows towards the next feature of the dive. Lobster tower is located around 80ft south of the mooring pin and stands 15ft taller than the surrounding coral rock heads to provide the lobsters that reside inside a safe shelter. The tower is also a haven for all manner of small life including Damsel fish that have been seen protecting eggs near the top, a juvenile Smooth Trunkfish standing about ¼ inch in diameter uses the intricate nooks and crannies for protection but is still hard to find due to its size. Plenty of Fairy basslets and black caps orbit the rock face and shrink into the cracks when someone gets too close. The night dive gave some interesting shark activity with us being able to see them most of the time we would shine our lights into the dark mid water. The night also brought the Basket stars to life and allowed us to view them feeding in the slight current. Finding the shrimp that live with the stars is always intriguing as they van range in sizes depending on the size of the star.
The next site gains its name from the main feature along the wall, the Driveway. A wide swath of gently sloping sand cutting through the reef wall with a central partition of low laying corals and an anemone that is home to some Squat shrimp, a Squat lobster and smaller hermit crabs. An Arrow crab is normally seen around the edges picking at nutrients floating by. Going down the northern side of the shoot takes you through a smaller shoot made of mostly rocks and corals hiding a Channel Clinging crab under the plate corals leasing down to 100ft giving Rob, our photo-pro, a great opportunity to get some fun pictures of the guests coming down through the shoot. Heading south along the wall takes you past a large Brain coral on the corner of the drive way and the wall giving a splendid backdrop for the smaller fish that orbit the corals. The day seemed to be all about Turtles as we were treated to one as we enter the water under the boat and further along the wall just before turning the dive and heading back to the boat.
After the chef prepared lunch we made our way to the southernmost dive site, Spanish Anchor. Believed to be from an old Spanish ship due to the lack of leader chain attached to the anchor. The anchor itself is located inside a gully that is partially covered by corals some of the length over head as you swim through it. Wedged in the wall on the north side gives divers a fabulous chance to swim through the gully and get a closer look at it. Half way down the gully between two plate corals is a juvenile Spotted Drum that shyly swims in and out of its protected home. While trying to get through the gully there was a turtle munching on his lunch, some sponges near the entrance, obstructing the guests from swimming through and making Rob wonder where everyone is as he was waiting along the wall to get pictures of everyone with the anchor. As Katie so dubbed the day upon arrival at the boat after the dive, Turtle Tuesday.
Up north along West Caicos we come to a dive site that is frequented by a resident reef shark, Sully, and her friends. This site also has a few Gullies which gives it its name, Gullies. Dropping in the water we meet Sully cruising the sand beneath the boat waiting for us to join her. Going south along the wall takes you deeper than some of the other dive sites with a big dog leg kicking out that’s covered in encrusting corals and sponges giving plenty of space for all manner of creatures to hide and feed. With some Barracuda slowly moving along the top of the wall as we glide past them enjoying the endless blue backdrop of the ocean. Another turtle graced us with its presence for a short duration before shooting up for the surface in need of some air.
Brandywine was our next destination along West Caicos, known for its abundance of barrel sponges in weird positions. Most of the sponges can be filled with an assortment of creatures like crabs, Nassau groupers, hermit crabs and banded coral shrimp. The barrel sponges are all at funny angels rather than the normal upright or sticking off the wall. The sharks were present as usual along the wall as we were looking at the decorator crabs in the sea plumes and the flamingo tongues on the gorgonians. Waterfalls of Creole wrasse flowing over the wall as we swim along enjoying the views. A very curious white striped shark sucker was hanging around the boat and paying lots of attention to the divers as they were coming up to the hang bar and doing their safely stop. It tried to attach itself to many a diver and their tanks but couldn’t get a solid grip as we probably weren’t moving fast enough for it. The whole time we were looking for the large creature that it may have come from, by the night dive it had disappeared so we assume it found a host and wandered into the wide blue yonder.
For a slightly different side of the diving we moved to Elephant Ear Canyon for a little muk diving. The site is always teaming with various little creatures in the sand and turtle grass. Head shield slugs, arrow shrimp, pipe horses and even the possibility of sea horses, sadly none were seen this week but we remain vigilant. The garden eels that inhabit the sandy areas under the boat make for some interesting views whilst traveling to the wall and back. The rocky area with some different anemones was exciting due to finding some squat shrimp and arrow crabs. Mary found a group of sponges that when you look at it from the right angel it looks like a frog smiling. Trying to communicate this to Alizee underwater was difficult until she got the angel right and saw what Mary was pointing out. Amongst all the rocks and anemones the blennies were having fun darting in and out of their holes catching food and watching the world go by them. They were shy, but if you were calm and didn’t get to close to begin with then they would come out and you could easily view most of their bodies.
Leaving West Caicos during lunch and heading back to the North West Point of Providenciales to a dive site some refer to as the Thunder Dome, but to us it’s just the Dome. A remainder of an old TV show that was filmed in the area. Having been worn by some storms over the years and covered in encrusting corals and sponges it has become part of the local reef and sustains life of many types. Big schools of grunts swarm inside the dome for protection along with a Cubera snapper and a friendly Nassau grouper. Inside one of the large tube used as a game show prop we found a stretched out spotted moray eel and 2 cowries with their mantels inside the shell waiting for night before they emerge. Going north along the wall takes us past many wire corals and plenty of opportunities to look for the infamous wire coral shrimp that scurry along the corals length. Just past all the wire coral you will find the chimney, a vertical crack in the wall with great life inside and an interesting way to turn the dive around as each diver slowly ascends taking in the slender of the macro life inside.
Our final dive site for the adventure was at Sharks Hotel, one of the more northerly dive sites on North West Point. With the boat hanging more over the wall than normal the dive begins by gliding to the wall through the blue. With multilevel dive opportunities either along the wall or on the small plateau sitting around 90 ft. The sharks enjoying this extra space to run their circuits along the wall while we viewed the lobsters in the wall and watched the purple rain of creole wrasse flooding the wall as we swam along. Exploring the reef above the wall with the pillar corals and soft corals flowing with blennies, hawkfish and grouper make the trip back to the boat colorful as you zig zag from the wall to the shallows taking it all in.
Making it back to the marina later than normal due to tidal constraints didn’t damped the party in the slightest. The guests all had a great time at the wine and cheese party and we all posed for a group picture around the bar area to capture the fun that was had throughout the week.